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Navigating Career Transitions: Empowering Women to Thrive in the Modern Workplace

Today’s companies would like to think that they are more inclusive, and while strides have been made in diversity, equity, and inclusion initiatives, there is still work to be done. The number of women leading Fortune 500 companies is at a record high, with 44 companies having female CEOs, but that still amounts to a mere 8.8% of businesses. This may be “more inclusive,” but the business landscape is still not primed for women to thrive in the workplace.


Women face unique obstacles in their careers

Studies show that, despite receiving higher performance ratings than their male counterparts, female employees tended to receive lower marks on “potential.” The result is that women are generally less likely to be promoted than men in the workplace. 

“Women are held to an unfortunate double standard that men are not held to — they are expected to be likable yet assertive, problem-solvers yet followers, and any number of other dichotomies that are seemingly counterintuitive,” says Brianna Van Zanten, Customer Success Manager at InCheq.

Because of this, women face obstacles in pursuing career progression that men do not encounter, which many refer to as the “glass ceiling.” These “invisible” barriers permeate workplace culture and prevent women from achieving the same level of success as men who might have the same level of qualification or achievement as them. 

However, many women have begun to understand the skills they need to overcome these biases and thrive in the workplace. 

Qualities and skills that can help women succeed in career advancement 

One of the most important qualities women who hope to grow in their careers need is a willingness to embrace change. Today’s workplace is a dynamic environment — plans can change quickly in a business landscape defined by a volatile economy and technological innovation. 

“To thrive in the workplace and stay competitive in opportunities for professional advancement, women must be willing to remain attuned to the changes happening in the workplace and adjust their strategy for growth accordingly,” explains Van Zanten.

Something that women hoping to grow in their careers may want to consider is upskilling or reskilling. Investing in professional development through methods like online courses, participating in workshops, or attending conferences not only makes one a more attractive candidate for career growth opportunities but also gives them valuable knowledge they can take with them into their new role.

Although some women may find no room for them to develop on their current career path, they could see opportunities for growth in other adjacent fields. The flexibility to reskill is especially paramount in the era of artificial intelligence, where many positions are being streamlined and forced to evolve because of technological innovations. “Those who wish not to become obsolete must be willing to embrace a new paradigm as responsibilities, job descriptions, and staffing needs change,” Van Zanten asserts.

Because of this, women hoping to grow in their careers must exhibit the essential qualities of resilience and confidence. Reports suggest that women are more likely than men to be rejected when they ask for more pay — if they even ask for more pay in the first place. It’s unfortunate, but women must be prepared to face rejection and use these setbacks as learning opportunities on how to improve for future chances.

Another tool skill hoping for career advancement need is networking opportunities with mentors and peers who have been through similar experiences and who can provide valuable insight into challenges and opportunities one may face in their career transition. Some professionals may also find networking to be a valuable tool to create opportunities in and of itself if they get the chance to rub elbows with leaders and decision-makers in their industry.

Embracing confidence to overcome setbacks

One of the most important things a woman must understand when trying to progress her career is the importance of setting appropriate boundaries. According to Van Zanten, those in power will see how eager you are to grow and attempt to take advantage of that. You might think you have to stretch beyond your limits to prove that you are worthy of career advancement, but this will only hurt you in the long run as it sets an unhealthy precedent of excessive labor.

“If you overexert yourself, your leaders will continue to expect this level of overexertion in your new role, which is simply unsustainable,” adds Van Zanten.

Van Zanten adds that women must be careful not to sacrifice their work-life balance in the name of professional development. Advancing one’s career is difficult, often requiring individuals to step up to the plate and take on extra responsibilities. 

However, if one does not maintain a strong work-life balance, a path towards career growth — something that should be incredibly fulfilling — instead becomes a source of burnout. Women hoping to flourish in their careers must find a way to manage their professional obligations without neglecting their personal commitments or mental health.

As Van Zanten explains, the modern landscape of work is not designed with women in mind. “Women continue to fight against the systemic biases that have held them back from achieving their dreams of successful careers,” she says. “By focusing on qualities like flexibility and resilience combined with skills like networking and boundary-setting, women will be on their way to greater accomplishments in professional development.”